June 17th was a special day for me this year, as it will mark exactly 366 days (leap year!) since I started my first “big kid job” post-college. Last week, my friends were laughing and reminiscing about each of our most embarrassing moments during the first week of our onboarding process. One of the girls tried walking to a building on her company’s campus that didn’t exist for her first meeting, while another spoke of a gigantic misunderstanding regarding her industry’s acronyms.
My story? I had never seen a laptop dock and, on my first day of work, assumed it was part of the laptop itself. I unplugged the entire thing (With no small effort, I might add) and proudly hauled it to my first meeting, only to be met with the stunned faces of my coworkers.
It’s quite the crazy world we’ve entered into these past few months and, though it’s affected everyone around us in unimaginable ways, I can speak from experience when I say it’s been particularly confusing to navigate as a newer member of the workforce. Many of my younger friends are about to start at their first jobs, while others my age have been suddenly forced to change roles and companies altogether — all whilst operating virtually.
These times have further emphasized an already existing problem — how can we shape onboarding training for new hires virtually in a way that leaves employees well-equipped and stays true to our culture? There was significant value in those silly in-person learning experiences and interactions I detailed from my and my friends’ first weeks. But, companies may find changing their onboarding policy daunting. With so many HR online onboarding platforms, such as BambooHR or ADP employee onboarding software, it’s difficult to know where to turn to move your programs online while still providing the best onboarding experiences for new teammates. This is where I’ll introduce the “Three Golden Rules of Onboarding” — best practices from myself and my peers that helped us in our own onboarding experiences, both in-person and virtual.
Rule #1: Keep ‘em busy
One of the single items I was most grateful for in my first weeks at my job was an employee onboarding checklist that was compiled by various members of my team before I started. This kept me engaged, learning, and cognizant of the fact that I could add value. There is no fun in spending the first week at your job feeling disconnected and bored, and the risk of this outcome is even greater when you’re working from home. When onboarding a virtual employee, the items on this list are the ones you should automate and house in a learning management system software. This will increase consistency in what is being taught to your new teammates, and allow for accountability from leadership to see who has learned the information needed to perform their job to the best of their ability.
Rule #2: Make time for clarifying questions
One of my peers informed me that, in a new role that she was onboarded to virtually, a member of her team was assigned to her as a “buddy.” He briefly stayed on team calls with her after everyone else had dropped to ensure she understood the takeaways from the meeting, as well as to provide clarification surrounding any acronyms or concepts she was unfamiliar with. It gave her a boost of confidence, as she felt better prepared and knowledgeable to take on the work assigned her. This rule also falls under best practices for onboarding contractors, as it allows them the chance to better observe and learn the details that make your company’s offerings unique.
Rule #3: Human connections are key
As a huge fan of psychology and studies of human nature as a whole, I’ve spent some time studying Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Beyond physiological needs and safety, the first thing humans yearn for is a sense of belonging. Companies traditionally built community with in-person events, ranging from holiday gatherings to birthday celebrations, but many of these options are unavailable when building virtual teams. I challenge you to find creative ways around what many believe to be unavoidable roadblocks — mail out gift cards to have a “new hire lunch” over a video call, play office trivia with fun facts about members of your team, or try out a virtual happy hour! A connected, engaged employee is a happy one, and they’ll look back fondly someday on their own onboarding program as I do now.
I have no doubt that if you commit to investing in the right employee onboarding software and developing onboarding process steps in line with the Three Golden Rules, you’ll leave your newest teammates feeling excited, confident, and truly ready to do Better Work.
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